Here’s a doozy of a dilemma for you. When the world’s top 8 men’s tennis players are walking towards you on a chilly London night on the Greenwich peninsula, dressed to the nines, heading to the O2 pier and a ferry to take them to the opening gala for the year ending ATP World Tour Finals, who do you get? Signature wise, I mean.
Security warned the small group of us waiting that they were late and in a hurry. Nothing new there. I calculated that I only had a few minutes. There was one other ‘grapher in the group, the rest were after selfies – that could slow them down a fraction…
Because Andy Murray wasn’t at last year’s event, he was my top priority. In fact, I actually had two sketches of him, but he has a quick siggy and is always obliging. Mission accomplished and both signed – one even dedicated. This is the other one.
Last year’s Wimbledon runner up Sabine Lisicki was among the stars taking part in the Mylan World Team Tennis Smash Hits event at London’s Royal Albert Hall earlier this month.
The annual charity extravaganza, now in its 22nd year, usually takes place in the US, but this year it was held during the Statoil Masters, to benefit Elton John’s AIDS Foundation UK. Sabine played for Team Billie Jean, joining former world number one Kim Clijsters, Tim Henman and Jamie Murray against Team Elton’s Andy Roddick, John McEnroe, Martina Hingis and Heather Watson.
The likeable German reached the 2013 Wimbledon final losing to Marion Bartoli and has a highest world ranking of 12, with four WTA titles.
I sketched 26 year old English actress Vanessa Noola Kirby – or ‘Noo’ as she is known (“no one ever calls me Vanessa,” she says) in her role as the endearing Stella opposite Gillian Anderson‘s Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’ timeless masterpiece A Streetcar Named Desire at London’s Old Vic during the late summer.
I didn’t manage to have the drawing signed at the theatre in person, so sent it to her. She autographed and returned it quicker than I’ve ever known… a matter of hours, and Royal Mail redeemed its reputation. Quick sums up Noo. Her short but stellar career has quickly launched her on the right trajectory. It was another ‘Stella’ part that introduced her to the masses, enchanting TV audiences as Estella also opposite Gillian in the BBC’s Great Expectations in 2011.
One of the most popular players on the Women’s Tennis circuit was Kim Clijsters.
A former World Number one in both singles and doubles, the likeable Kim was in London this month to take part in the Mylan World Team Tennis Smash Hits Charity match at the Royal Albert Hall to raise funds for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. She signed and dedicated this sketch that shows off her trademark ‘splits’ which often had many a spectator wincing.
In June 2011 TIME Magazine named her one of the 30 legends of Women’s Tennis Past, Present and Future and she was also ranked 16 on its Top 100 list of the most influential people that year.
Kim retired in 2004 after reaching both the world number one rankings in singles and doubles simultaneously. Kim made comeback in 2009 after the birth of her daughter and became the first wildcard champion – wining the US Open for a second time. She repeated the feat the following year to retain the title and win her third Grand Slam. In 2011 she retained the world number one singles ranking, winning the Australian Open and retired the following year.
I met Scottish actress Lindsay Duncan at the Noël Coward Theatre in London in 2012 where she was performing Noel Coward’s Hay Fever. She signed a sketch I drew of her as the lead role of Judith Bliss. I also had this sketch of her as Martha from That Face, which was initially staged at The Royal Court Theatre, before transferring to the Duke of York’s in the West End in 2007. She was nominated for a Best Actress Olivier Award, but I never got it signed at the time. She is currently on Broadway in the revival of Edward Albee’s A Delicated Balance, so I mailed it to her and she very kindly signed and returned it for me.
Since beginning her professional stage career in Dom Juan at London’s Hampstead Theatre in 1976, Lindsay has created an impressive theatrical CV on both sides of the Atlantic.
In September 1985 she created the role of the Marquise de Merteuil in Les Liaisons Dangereuses for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford Upon Avon before transferring to The Pit in London’s Barbican Centre and then to the Ambassadors in the West End.
In 1987 the play moved to New York. For her performance Lindsay was nominated for a Tony Award and won the Olivier for Best Actress. She won her second Oliver and the Tony in 2001 for her performance as Amanda Prynne in Private Lives. She also won the Critics Circle Theatre Award and Drama Desk Award for the role.
For more than a decade American tennis star Andy Roddick was one of the most successful and influential players in the professional game. His flair, intelligence coupled with his charisma and engaging personality enabled him to stay in the the top ten for a consecutive season, reaching world number one in 2003 after winning the US open that year.
Andy’s tenure at number one however was a short one – 13 weeks, being replaced by the emerging Roger Federer who began his ascent to become the greatest player in the history of the sport. In fact Andy lost all his other four Grand Slams finals to the Swiss maestro – three Wimbledons in 2004, 2005 and 2009 and the US Open in 2006.
But he came mighty close in their last encounter at Wimbledon, losing a fifth set tie breaker 14-16 in the longest men’s Grand Slam final in history at 77 games and the longest fifth set. The foundations for Andy’s game lay in his devastating serve – one clocked at 155mph (248.4km/h) in a 2004 Davis Cup tie – and a fluent forehand. He retired in 2012 with 32 career tittles and is currently 11th on the all time earnings list. Since then he has established the Andy Roddick Foundation to help at risk youth.
Andy signed this sketch at the Statoil Masters’ Tennis Championships at London’s Royal Albert Hall last week.
Arthur Miller’s harrowing 1953 witch hunt classic The Crucible played London’s Old Vic Theatre this summer and was one of 2014’s hottest tickets. Directed by the multi-award-winning South African Yaël Farber, the three and a half hour production had critics spellbound, describing it as, “absorbing”, “it is what great theatre is all about”, “unmissable”, “a production of electrifying intensity”.
Based on the 17th century witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts (which the playwright uses as an allegory for McCarthyism in the 1950s) the play’s main protagonist is bewildered John Procter, a down to earth farmer played by Richard Armitage in what has been called, “an expressive turn, full of raw power”.
Making her professional stage debut as the antagonist ringleader Abigail Williams was a memorably sinister Samantha Colley. Charismatic and manipulative, she spreads rumours of witchcraft after a brief affair with John Procter, eventually accusing his wife of being “bewitched”.
This pencil sketch is a montage of Richard and Sam’s characters in the play which they both kindly signed.
Giovanni and Annabella are lovers. They are also brother and sister, the protagonists in John Ford’s 400 year old play about forbidden love.
Tis Pity She’s a Whore was first performed sometime between 1629 and 1633 by Queen Henrietta’s Men at the Cockpit Theatre in London. The title was often changed to Giovanni and Annabella, The Brother and Sister or simply Tis Pity. A recent revival has just completed its season at Shakespeare’s Globe in the intimate, candlelit enclave, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, featuring Max Bennett and Fiona Button as the doomed romantic leads on the path to tragedy.
Critics were unanimous in their praise or Michael Longhurst’s brilliant production which was not always the case with this play until well into the twentieth century. The play’s treatment of incest made it one of the most controversial works in English literature but is now regarded as a classic. Ford, the major playwright during the reign of Charles I, often dealt with conflicts between individual passion, conscience and society’s laws and morals.
In fact, Transport for London apparently banned posters showing the entwined naked torsos of the siblings, deeming them too racy for tired commuters.
The Globe’s production of this unsettling Renaissance incestuous drama was described as a no-holds-barred interpretation. One reviewer said, “it’s not just the candle flames that are naked.” The Telegraph’s Tim Walker called Max and Fiona’s portrayals, “electrifying”.
One of the greats of tennis, Billie Jean King won 39 Grand Slams, including a record twenty Wimbledon titles. She was world number one for five years and was responsible for establishing the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) forty years ago. She defeated all the greats – Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Margaret Court. However, it was the victory over a 55 year old man that she will be remembered for the most, furthering the cause of women’s struggle for equality in the 1970s.
The ‘Battle of the Sexes’ captured the imagination of the world, not just tennis enthusiasts. On 20 September 1973 in Houston, Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs, the 1939 Wimbledon Champion 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.
“I thought it would set women back 50 years if I didn’t win that match,” she said.
It was for Billie Jean’s crusading that LIFE Magazine in 1990 named her one of the ‘100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century’. She was the only female athlete on the list.
With her long-time friend, rock legend Elton John, her World Team Tennis Smash Hits event was staged at London’s Royal Albert Hall at the conclusion of the Statoil Masters’ Tennis Tournament last weekend. It raised $1million for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. I was lucky enough to meet the very personable Billie Jean as she left the event, and she signed my sketch.